It’s a common misconception that fashion photography is all about the clothes – but without the right knowledge of lighting, composition, camera gear and posing, even the most incredible haute couture can look lifeless. As a beginner fashion photographer, you’ll need to balance both the normal elements of photography with the life and energy of a model and their clothing.
To help you find that perfect balance, Ted’s Cameras has teamed up with professional photographer Jason Lau to provide 5 tips to take your outfit photos to the next level:
1. Direct your model with ideas – not poses
One of the most important parts of fashion photography is knowing how to work with a model.
“Your model is not a mannequin and your approach to posing should not be about just moving their bodies,” says Lau. “If you only direct your models with how to move their arms and legs, you will quickly see a disconnect with their expressions, and this will often result in poses looking awkward and unnatural.”
The best way to pose a model is to give them a clear concept or idea for them to act out. That way, the model’s poses will match the emotion they are trying to create. Consider trying these techniques:
- Suggest poses with emotive words
- Encourage your model and give positive feedback
- Get to know what angles are more flattering for your subject, and help your model find those poses
- Demonstrate poses or actions, even if it makes you look silly. This helps the model feel less self-conscious and gives them more confidence in their movements
2. Learn to use light emotively
“If you have seen any great cinematic movies, you’ll know that lighting is a language all of its own,” says Lau. “Whether lighting is soft or hard, natural or evocative, it can be used to enhance your fashion imagery and help communicate the right mood.”
To become a master of lighting, consider the following:
- Sunlight comes in many forms and directions. Learn to know what time of day or what weather type will suit the images you want to capture
- Study films and photography and note what angle the lighting is coming from and what mood it evokes
- Pay attention to where the shadow and light is falling on your subject and note what it is emphasising and shaping
- Buy whatever lights you can afford and experiment. Get to know what kind of effects you can create, and what works best
Cameras with a large sensor, like Nikon’s D610, can capture bright, high-contrast imaging in strong light, as well as excellent pickup when shooting in low-light conditions.
3. Work with a great team
“No fashion photographer works on their own, literally,” says Lau.
“If you want to improve your results, learn to find a great team, including makeup artists, hair stylists, fashion stylists as well as models. You may not know a lot of people at the start but there are many creative groups on social media that are great for finding such people willing to collaborate on photoshoots.”
If you can manage to pull together a skilled team, your results will appear more professional and it also means you don’t have to do all the work. Here’s how you can build a great team:
- Join creative networking groups for creatives to build a team for your fashion shoot
- Offer clear examples of inspiration that you would like to work towards. This helps unify everyone’s vision
- Good communication is key; the more the team feel supported and inspired, the more likely they are to work with you again
- Allow people to do their jobs but don’t be afraid to give constructive feedback if this will help pull the look together. You should want the same.
4. Whatever gear you own is enough
“Don’t obsess over camera equipment,” says Lau. “Most of the time this becomes an excuse for not being creative. Vision is more important than gear. Your subject is more important than your gear.”
If all you have is an entry level DSLR camera and window light, you can still create strong fashion imagery or beautiful portraiture.
- Spend your time developing the ideas and looks of what you want to create, including notes, inspiration imagery or sketched out ideas.
- Shape your ideas around what you can create not what you can’t
- Focus your energy on the person in front of you – not your camera
- Get to know your gear and use your limitations as a chance to develop a style
If you want to get an idea of some good digital cameras to start with, check out this guide.
5. Edit with your reference images in view
“If you want your fashion images to look like a certain standard of work, then have that standard in front of you when you are digitally editing your work,” says Lau. “Some of the best fashion photographers still work with reference images before and after they shoot.”
Software like Lightroom or Photoshop don’t exist just to fix mistakes – they should be used to express and develop a particular concept or aesthetic. Referencing other images while you edit ensures that you don’t get complacent and can more effectively attain the look you are after.
Try these tricks to keeping your work looking fresh, professional and interesting:
- Before you start editing, have your inspiration imagery up on a separate screen or print. Regularly check your tones and colours to observe how closely you are matching it.
- It’s not about copying, but training your eyes to judge why certain images work better than others
- Work towards a single clear style per shoot. It’s of no use to your portfolio jumping around and being inconsistent
Referencing a style is only the beginning – soon you’ll adapt and develop your own aesthetic.
Find your own style
Fashion photography is all about concept and story – and using your own unique style to tell that story. It’s a creative discipline that often defies strict definitions, meaning you can shoot whatever you want, however you want – as long as you’re telling an interesting story. To get more expert pointers from Jason Lau, check out his Melbourne Studio Lighting workshops, hosted by Ted’s Cameras, starting in May and running throughout June.